USA boycott of Winter Olympics causes issues in athletic world

Ruby Suro

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Creative Commons photo through Flickr by Graeme Pow

These olympic rings stand 18 meters tall on The Mound in Edinburgh. In this year’s Winter Olympics, many athletes are unable to compete for the places they call home, represented by those 5 rings. Although the numbers are slim this year, athletes still aim to bring back medals for their countries.

US President Joe Biden’s boycott of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been a shock to many. His decision sheds light on the issues China has concealed. Recently, China has been experiencing backlash for their forced labor and the genocide of the Uyghur Muslims. Biden and other sponsors are trying to distance themselves from the situation with boycotts. North Korea, Bermuda, Singapore, South Africa, Togo and Tonga are among the countries that chose not to participate in the Winter Olympic games this year. The countries that have chosen to boycott include New Zealand, Australia, Great Britain, Canada, Belgium, Lithuania and the United States of America, but are still allowing their athletes to participate in the games. Sponsorships and athletes have been rushing to figure out their plan of action. These boycotts and cancellations might not be the most effective solution for the people involved.

China has a significantly different government than the USA. They are a communist country that strives to be efficient and a hard working society. Their values are different from the USA’s and they are led by Xi Jinping. Chinese people support customs that aid their country and they trust their government, which has contributes to their labor issues. Many people from the United States have been unaware of these issues and the recent Olympics have led to this discovery.

When asked about the topic of the Chinese human rights issues, junior Bre Feeman, a leader of the Asian Student Union, explained the lack of education on topics in Asia and she “feels like we don’t really learn about that. I know Chinese culture can be more conservative,” but not many others are as educated on China.

Boycotting this year’s Winter Olympics this year is both effective and ineffective. Over 200 athletes from the USA, significantly less than the 600 athletes last year, are going to Beijing to compete. Although the numbers have dropped, athletes are still participating in the games this year. Biden is essentially trying to separate the country from the issues in China with a “diplomatic boycott,” but it is not getting to the real root of the problem.

“It’s like we’re acknowledging something’s bad is happening, but you can still go,” Feeman said.

Many athletes from the USA are continuing to participating in the Beijing Olympics despite the boycott. The Olympics is one of the biggest milestones for athletes to train for. Some athletes do not have the luxury of time and their optimal window is short. The Olympics only comes around every other year, so the athletes train their hardest to make it work.

“You have to train your whole life, like seven, eight hours a day, four to five days a week,” junior Ella Zirbes, an Olympic bound athlete, explained.

It’s just super significant because it represents like all the hard work the US has done; all the different, stuff we have here and in other countries. It’s a really cool way to show how talented you are.”

— Ella Zirbes

Sponsorships fund many of the Olympic sports and athletes. They receive a large amount of exposure from the Olympics broadcasts. Compared to last year, the price of this year’s Winter Olympics is $3.9 billion, significantly less than the $15.9 billion spent on the 2021 Summer Olympics. Big companies, such as Nike and Allianz, have been withdrawing some of their ads from the Olympic games.

Zirbes talks about the Olympics being the main showcase of athletic talent in the world. She explains the pride Olympians feel when representing her country and the important funding athletes get from sponsorships.

The Olympics are biannual events that many athletes work towards all their lives. In previous years, each country is given an opportunity to host the games. Families also gather together to support their country and the success of their athletes. It is a worldwide tradition that gives people the chance to join together and feel connected. While the Olympians are there to compete, the real purpose of the Olympics is to celebrate each other’s achievements. Diversity and inclusion are strong themes the Olympics represent. The Olympics build an environment to form strong bonds between people of different backgrounds and goals. To have the amount of training and work athletes put in taken away from them is a waste of time and money. The regulations of these boycott are ineffective.

“It’s just super significant because it represents all the hard work the US has done and all the different stuff we have here and in other countries. It’s a really cool way to show how talented you are,” Zirbes said.

A different way to go about the situation would be to give some support to the Muslims in China and provide education for those in the Western countries. That would go much farther than a pointless label.